Sadie Pearse’s novel, This Child of Ours, was published by Sphere on
Sadie kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about This Child of Ours.
It’s part love story, part moral dilemma – Sally and Theo are a loving couple, enjoying life with their 7-year-old daughter Riley. Then one day Riley tells them she’s unhappy, and that she doesn’t feel right in her own skin. Her parents want to help her – but they can’t agree on how.
2. What inspired the book?
Riley is a child in our modern world, where ideas about gender are constantly changing, and concepts of what a boy or girl is or could be are in flux. I wanted to look at what this could mean for a family who consider themselves ‘normal’ (whatever that is) and might never have considered these issues before. When my daughter was born, people would say things like ‘Ahh… a girl, now you’ll have child who’ll sit still and craft things.’ All she wanted to do was leap off furniture. It got me thinking about society’s expectations of children, and our own.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I’ve been a planner in the past (when writing my Vanessa Greene and Abby Clements books), but this book followed a different path. I didn’t know anything when I started apart from the words Riley would say to her parents. I had no idea where the story would go and it was a great, messy, exciting adventure. I cut and rewrote whole chapters as I went, to make sure the story flowed.
4. Is there anything about the process of creating this novel which surprised you?
How brutal I’d have to be! I had a whole third part that wasn’t working. It got a bit dark and depressing and that wasn’t what I wanted the book to be at all. I cut out a few plotlines and then the light poured in. I could see my way again. It meant the book took longer than I’d planned for – but it came together so much better as a result. Another thing that surprised me, in a practical sense, was that I ended up having two editors for this book – what seemed unsettling at first ended up being a really positive experience. I enjoyed having two sharp minds give feedback on the book, and the book benefitted immeasurably from the changes I made in response.
5. Do you have any writing influences or rituals you have to stick to?
I start each writing day with three A4 pages of free-flow writing, a technique called The Morning Pages that I learned from a great creative workbook, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Those pages clear the way for me to get to work on my project.
Another idea I drew from this book was making a regular time to ‘fill the well’ – going to an art gallery, or strolling round a charity shop, whatever it is, doing it on your own. I get a lot of colour for stories that way.
6. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I have two kids, a boy of five and a girl of three, so I’m with them a lot – drawing, playing, tidying, refereeing! It’s great fun but also really tiring – so I recharge by seeing friends, yoga and salsa dancing.
7. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Ooh, what a great question. I’m going to choose a children’s book as I’ve read it a dozens of times already and I still get a tear in my eye every time! Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson. It’s beautifully illustrated really touching on memory, loss, and the mother/daughter relationship.
8. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Nice idea. I think it would be ‘What do you enjoy most about writing?’
It’s a chance to live a hundred other lives, and to explore questions you’ve always wondered about. It’s a kind of magic – it feels like the stories come from some place other than me – and a chance to talk to people all over the world.
About the book
Riley Pieterson is an adventurous girl with lots of questions. There’s plenty she doesn’t know yet; what a human brain looks like. All the constellations in the night sky. Why others can’t see her the way she sees herself.
When Riley confides in her parents – Sally and Theo – that she feels uncomfortable in her own skin, a chain of events begins that changes their lives forever. Sally wants to support her daughter by helping her be who she dreams of being. Theo resists; he thinks Riley is a seven-year-old child pushing boundaries. Both believe theirs is the only way to protect Riley and keep her safe.
With the wellbeing of their child at stake, Sally and Theo’s relationship is pushed to breaking point. To save their family, each of them must look deeply at who they really are.
About the author
Sadie Pearse grew up in London, where she still lives with her family. She wrote stories as a girl, photocopying and stapling the pages together and selling them on her doorstep for 20p each. She then worked as an editor at a major publishing house, taught English in Latin America, and learned to surf, before starting to write again.